Women's participation in political parties on the rise

Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu

Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Ms Anne Nderitu, the Registrar of Political Parties, who is also one of the women holding strategic positions in the political parties’ structures, lauded the increased representation.
  • Ms Nderitu, admits there has been an increase in participation of women in running of political parties and expects that through this, many of them will be on the ballot.

As the country grapples with achieving the two-third gender constitutional requirement, some milestones, although insignificant, have been made to women’s representation in political parties.

The presence of women in key positions and crucial party organs is steadily increasing their visibility, and participation in primaries.

Women have and still undergo many challenges associated with political party ownership which has hindered their participation in making crucial party policies, decisions and in the nominations and election for various seats.

However, in the past few years, political parties have placed women in various positions of leadership.

This has not only given them a ray of hope but also an opportunity to influence some of the changes in the political outfits to help remove bottlenecks that have hindered representation and participation of women aspirants in politics.

Overcoming barriers

Some women have overcome barriers impeding their ascent into political parties’ leadership positions and are disturbing the status quo. At the helm of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party is Ms Catherine Mumma, who is the chairperson of the National Elections Board. Ms Veronica Maina is the secretary general of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Ms Shakilla Abdalla holds the same position in the Wiper Democratic Movement.

Apart from those holding various positions, many others have taken the bold step of establishing political parties. They include Ms Martha Karua, party leader of Narc Kenya; and Charity Ngilu, who leads the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc).

Ms Grace Akumu founded the Citizens Conventions Party (CCP) but folded it and joined ODM, whose ticket she sought to contest the Kisumu Woman Representative seat, which has been won by former Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga.

Ms Millicent Anyango Obudho is Ford Kenya deputy party leader. She states that her position puts her in a better place to push for the rights of women.

One of the things she has been able to push is have the party waive nomination fees for women.

“In this position, I am now working on having stronger women aspirants not to be subjected to party primaries. I hope this will have many on the ballot and finally as elected leaders,” says Ms Obudho.

She points out that in the Ford Kenya’s National Executive Council, there are almost more women than men.

She however states that one has to be smart to get the support of both men and women officials in the party, to push for pro-women policies.

“How you manoeuvre within the party depends on entirely your relationship with the party leader and others. You must however be firm or you may just end up being there like a flower girl, which we are not,” she says.

More efforts required

But Mrs Akumu feels it takes more than just having women at the helm of a party to have their participation in elective politics felt.

The former party leader of CCP, told Nation.Africa that she could reach out to women to contest various seats but many didn’t come on board because of the ODM wave in the Nyanza region.

She feels the impact of those women in political party positions will be seen after the August 9 general election.

According to Ms Akumu, men still have more influence in the decision-making process within parties.

She urges women not to abuse the offices but exploit their position to the maximum by bringing more women on board.

“I still fear that some of these women are holding these positions, but men are still pulling strings behind the scenes. I want to encourage them to stick their necks out and radically bring women to the fore so that we can meet the two-third gender rule in the appointment and elective process,” says Ms Akumu.

She gave an example of Ms Mumma who she called upon to come out strongly to fight for women, saying she will get the support from many people.

Ms Anne Nderitu, the Registrar of Political Parties, who is also one of the women holding strategic positions in the political parties’ structures, lauded the increased representation of women in the parties.

Ms Nderitu, admits there has been an increase in participation of women in running of political parties and expects that through this, many of them will be on the ballot.

She commended political parties for involving women in the running of parties.

“Women understand the gaps that have been there barring more women from ascending to top party positions and getting elected. They are in a better position to correct the wrongs,” says Ms Nderitu.

Ms Nderitu, however, says the involvement needs to be taken a notch higher by expanding the space and bringing on board different sets of women.

By this she means parties should search for women who are experienced, others who are young and persons with disabilities to have them represented and actively involved in parties and elective seats.

As the office of the registrar, she states that they are deliberate about inclusion saying her role basically is to ensure parties comply by meeting the two-thirds gender rule during nominations and within their structures.

“We play our role through enforcing laws and guidelines pushing for inclusion. When they fall short, we ensure that they go back to the drawing board and comply,” says Ms Nderitu.

She adds that her office trains and capacity-builds women and the youth so that they increase their participation.

Training

The Registrar of Political Parties says they have extended the training to the parties' national election boards so that they look at inclusion keenly and resolve disputes at their level before it escalates.

While lauding the current representation of women in political parties, Ms Nderitu states that the parties should choose the women keenly, bearing in mind their abilities, experience, performance record and ability to deliver, before giving them an opportunity.

She also urges politicians and the media not to amplify the shortcomings of the women but instead support their political participation to improve inclusion in political spaces.

Mr Davis Ochieng Okeyo, a senior programmes officer at the National Gender and Equality Commission, believes that party positions put women at a vantage point to transit to other positions in the two houses of Parliament.

Ms Judith Pareno, a former ODM National Elections Board chair, is now a nominated senator.

“Once you are in the secretariat, you can easily ascend to other elective positions owing to the visibility you get. This has also made other women have confidence in sharing their issues with people who understand their plight better,” says Mr Okeyo.

Mr Okeyo, who is the NGEC Western regional coordinator, indicated that the commission has had parties make commitment that they will comply with the two-third gender rule.

They are also available for those who have complaints about parties flouting laws dealing with inclusivity.

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